Saanich police are warning solo shoppers to be aware of their surroundings after an 80-year-old woman had her wallet stolen while she sat in her car.
The woman had just returned to her vehicle about 1 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the underground-parking area at Uptown centre when a man reached in and took her wallet from the seat beside her, said Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie.
“We haven’t seen any other instances of this, but obviously this is quite concerning,” Eassie said. “This is something new.”
The thief struck quickly, Eassie said.
“When she entered her vehicle — she obviously had unlocked her doors with the automatic key fob — [she] placed her wallet on the seat directly next to her and then got into the vehicle,” he said.
“Almost immediately, an unknown male opened the passenger-side door of her vehicle [and grabbed the wallet].”
A police search turned up no trace of the suspect.
He is described as being in his late 20s to early 30s, five-foot-eight to five-foot-10 and of average build. He was wearing a dark jacket and dark pants.
Eassie said the time of day adds to the troubling nature of the crime.
“You would expect that there would have been numerous people in the immediate area,” he said. “Somebody was brazen enough to reach into a vehicle when there was somebody in the vehicle. It is a bit of a different twist on what we generally think of as a theft from a vehicle.”
The woman was unhurt but shaken, and called police right away. “[She was] very upset, very distraught by the fact that somebody would do this,” Eassie said.
While police hope there are no repeat incidents, they are advising that people take precautions.
“But we’re putting out a message to the public that if they are travelling alone, once they open the door to get into the vehicle, it may be best practice to lock the doors behind them.”
Eassie said the video-surveillance system in Uptown’s parking area is good, but the theft occurred in an area where visibility was limited. He said the thief had probably been hanging around before making his move.
Uptown marketing director Kristy Lowes said close attention has been paid to security measures.
“The safety and security of our guests is our first priority at Uptown, and this is a very unfortunate isolated incident,” Lowes said. “We’re a very secure site. We do have cameras all over the site and we have 24-7 personnel on-site, as well.”
No such incident has happened at the underground parking area at nearby Mayfair Shopping Centre, said general manager Laura Poland.
The parking area and other parts of the shopping centre are fully covered by security cameras, she said.